This week hadn't been going well. Man Flu was bad enough - constant sneezing and soaking handkerchiefs. Then work started going wrong. On Wednesday I was in the mood to pack it all in and become a hermit. When Thursday came round the world was looking rosier, the sneezing had stopped for one thing and the sun was shining. After lunch I headed to my local tackle shop, only to find a note on the door saying 'Closed for lunch. Back at 1.30'. It was 1.35, so I walked to the café to kick them out!
I picked up a bag of feed pellets to chuck into my big pellet bucket and a Fox lure box to organise my small spools of whipping thread - the unusual colours that I use mostly for repairs and tippings. They've been jumbled up in an old ice-cream tub for far too long. On the way home I bought some corn dog for butties, and once they were made I was on my way. With the day unseasonably warm the river was calling me. An evening by the river would help me get my head together and revitlise me.
The journey was somewhat tedious, I should have set off sooner to beat the traffic, and I had no clear idea where I was heading. Would the river be up and coloured, or would it have fined off again after the rain earlier in the week? The car made it's way to the stretch I fished last time out. It's a peaceful stretch, and even if busy there's always somewhere to cast a bait.
This time it wasn't too busy. Two anglers who were packing up said it had been a struggle. The river was not as high as I expected, hardly up at all and dropping. The colour wasn't much either. By all accounts there wasn't much in the way of leaves or debris causing problems. I wasn't brim full of confidence nor was I despondent. Something would come along at some point.
It was a two boilie approach this time. One rod fishing a 15mm Oyster and Mussel - it's been doing well so stick with it, the other a 10mm Crab and Crayfish - got to give them a fair trial. Sitting on the beach they were cast well apart to cover different parts of the bend. I dropped them both a little shorter than usual in an attempt to avoid the snags, hoping fish would still find them.
I was settled down by six, the light was fading early as the sky had clouded over. The first spots of rain pattered on the river, the wind was coming from a southerly direction and the far bank keeping it off me. Gradually the rain increased in intensity and I put on the waterproofs while sat under my brolly. That was when the upstream rod tip jagged down a couple of times and I found myself pulling in a dead weight. It was definitely a fish but it felt very odd. Half way in it seemed to come off, only to come back as I took in slack. It was either very big and lazy, or something was up. When it rolled on the surface I could see it was hooked in a pelvic fin. A bemused looking barbel of some seven pounds.
Ten minutes later, while I was rebaiting, the downstream rod fishing the Crab and Crayfish bait steamed off. Just to make me eat my words about how Ribble chub never do that... This was a very lean fish of four pounds. I wondered if these boilies were chub magnets like Mainline's NRG paste. I tried NRG a few years back, both as a paste bait and a wrap with boilies. It did catch barbel, but chub (and bream) seemed to make a beeline for it and it was abandoned as a barbel bait. Please don't let the Crab and Crayfish be the same.
I'm well into the mode of leaving baits out as long as possible now. I can't see the point in putting too much bait out when the temperatures are falling. It was twenty-five past seven when the 10mm bait was off again as the rain eased. There was no mistaking this fish for a chub. A steady plod gave the game away. Barbel would eat the Crab and Cray. When netted the shoulder width suggested another camera session would be called for. It was. But it didn't go smoothly. No sooner had I got the tripod set up and a test shot taken for framing than the batteries died in the camera. Off the tripod, put in the spare cells, try again. Camera dead. Back off the tripod and battery compartment opened to reveal one put in the wrong way round. Third time lucky. Fish out of the sack, photos taken, fish returned.
The night was warm, I was working up a sweat with the waterproofs over the top of the bunny suit and the swim looked like a whirlwind had hit it. As I rearranged it to a semblance of order the upstream rod slammed over. This fish looked as long as the last one in the net, but on the mat was skinnier and lacking in the shoulder department. Not even nine pounds. With the rain looking like it had gone for good I sat it out until half nine. My hopes were fading though. Not least because the sky had cleared and a light mist was forming. An early finish or move? Move. As I packed up the sky clouded over and the mist lifted.
Half an hour later I was settled in the swim where I had tumbled down the bank earlier in the season. It was less overgrown now with less to trip over. With the river being lower than back then I went for long chucks on both rods. It only took fourteen minutes for the downstream rod to rip off in decisive fashion as yet another chub proved my judgement wrong. A bit of a baby this time. Ten minutes later the Crab and Cray provided me with a small barbel, boosting my confidence in the bait. I thought about making another move, but by eleven thirty without another bite I decided to give it best.
Two good things gained from the session were the barbel on the new bait and the small one from the second swim. I had it down as maybe a better bet for barbel when the river was carrying extra water, but now I think there's a chance of a fish anywhere along the length. Maybe moving regularly is the secret to fishing the uniform appearing stretches. It has worked for me on another length.